All Children In England 'Will' Return To School In September, Education Secretary Says

Gavin Williamson's commitment goes further than that of Boris Johnson. The minister also suggested "bubbles" could be expanded from 15 to cover whole classes.

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Children of all ages in England will go back to school in September, the education secretary has confirmed for the first time.

Gavin Williamson’s pledge went further than that of Boris Johnson, who said earlier on Friday that it was “absolutely” his intention for children to return on a five-days-a-week basis.

Williamson also revealed the government is looking at creating larger bubbles to allow class sizes to expand beyond the current maximum of 15, which is proving a major obstacle to the reopening of schools.

He told the daily Downing Street briefing: “School is vital for every one of our children.

“That is why we will bring all children in all year groups back to school in September.

“While many children have already returned to school, I do understand that there is anxiety still among parents.

“I want to assure you that the wellbeing of your children is the absolute top priority for every single one of us.”

On bubbles, he said: “We’ve been creating bubbles of children in the classroom, creating a protective environment for those children.

“Currently that is at 15. What we would be looking at doing is expanding those bubbles to include the whole class.”

He said signs that the level of infections was falling further, with the UK’s coronavirus alert level reduced from 4 to 3 on Friday, meant ministers could work on “making sure every child returns to school”.

Screen grab of Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Screen grab of Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Williamson added: “We recognise there is still going to have to be protective measures put in place to make sure children are safe and make sure that teachers and all those who work in school are safe as well, and that is why we are going to be issuing further guidance in the next two weeks.”

The education secretary, however, stopped short of committing to a return to full-time five-days-a-week school for every child, saying only that he was “absolutely signed up to the fact that we want to bring every child back in every year group in every school”.

Earlier, Johnson said “provided we can make classrooms safe” he wants “every child, every pupil, every student, back in September”.

Pressed on whether he wanted every pupil to be able to go back five days a week rather than for alternating weeks, Johnson said: “I do. I’m making no bones about it, I think that’s the way forward for our country.”

On Friday the government announced a £1bn fund to help pupils catch up with learning.


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